ASSESSING YOUNG LANGUAGE LEARNERS PENNY MCKAY PDF

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Assesing young language learner penny mckay. Refani Putri. Charles Alderson and Lyle F. Bachman and Antony J. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

Language and languages — Ability testing. M And to all the family, especially to Andy, Paul and Chris. In Asia and Europe in particular, there has been a tendency to lower the age at which school children begin to learn a foreign language, since it is believed that the earlier a child starts to learn a foreign language, the greater the ultimate achievement will be.

In addition, in many regions of the world, vast numbers of children attend schools in which the language of instruction is not the same as their native or mother tongue. In many African countries, for instance, the language of education is not the same as the language of the home for the majority of children. In many settings, the children of immigrants must not only deal with the same subject matter as their classmates for whom the language of instruction is their native language, but also acquire that language as a second, sometimes as a third, language.

In the USA, for example, it has recently been estimated that well over 3 million children, or nearly 12 per cent of all children in the elementary schools, are young language learners. Furthermore, in many countries, young language learners comprise the most rapidly growing segment of the elementary primary school population. There is therefore a need to identify the needs of young language learners, to determine what level, if any, of proficiency they have in the target language, to diagnose their strengths and areas in need of improvement, and to keep track of their progress in acquiring the language.

Language assessment, whether this is informal, classroom- based, or large-scale, thus has a critical role to play in gathering the infor- mation needed for these purposes. The most pressing assessment need in school programmes for young learners is for greater knowledge and expertise in language assessment among classroom teachers.

Although high-stakes accountability deci- sions are often based largely on the results of large-scale, standardized assessments, the formative decisions that help guide student learning and inform teaching are appropriately made on the basis of classroom- based assessments that teachers make. Unfortunately, the vast majority of teachers who work with young language learners have had little or no professional training or education in language assessment.

This book is ideally suited to meet this assessment need of practition- ers who are working with young language learners. It includes discus- sions of the research about the characteristics and special needs of young language learners, along with discussions of the research about the con- ditions under which these children learn language. The volume also pro- vides practitioners with a wealth of approaches, both informal and formal, to classroom assessment, including the assessment of oral skills, reading and writing, illustrated with numerous examples from actual classrooms and programmes for young language learners.

The author of this volume, Penny McKay, has extensive experience in teaching school-age learners and in developing programmes for these learners, and has conducted considerable research herself in this area. In addition, her long experience as an educator, mentor and teacher trainer has enabled her bring to this volume a wealth of knowledge, and to focus this and present it in a way that is readily accessible to practitioners.

In summary, this book is timely in that it addresses an important and urgent need in language assessment. Charles Alderson Lyle F. Thanks go to Professor Lynne Cameron at Leeds University, who encouraged me to write the book, and to Lynette Bowyer, who edited early drafts for no other reason than to lend me support and encourage- ment.

Thanks also go to Julia Rothwell, Jenny Angus and Saraswathi Griffiths-Chandran for talking to me about their own assessment prac- tices, and to all the teachers with whom I have interacted during my school teaching career, as well as during my professional development, M.

I am very grateful for the support given by Lyle Bachman and Charles Alderson. In particular, I am indebted to Lyle Bachman for sharing his expertise, while reading and commenting on drafts of this book. Finally, I wish to thank my husband, Andy, for his unending patience and encouragement, and, as can be vouched for by family, friends and colleagues, his wonderful cooking.

What are the characteristics of young learners that need to be remembered in assessment decisions? We all know that young learners are different from adults, but how do we explain the important differences in a simple, accessible way? This chapter provides some central information about young learners — who they are, where they are learning, and what requires us to give them special consideration in assessment. Young language learners and their language programmes Young language learners are those who are learning a foreign or second language and who are doing so during the first six or seven years of formal schooling.

In the education systems of most countries, young learners are children who are in primary or elementary school. In terms of age, young learners are between the ages of approximately five and twelve. Many young language learners can be called bilingual. Bilingual learners are those learners who learn two or more languages to some level of profi- ciency Bialystok, , p.

This rather vague definition — impossible to pin down because of the variety of experiences of learners — would tend to include children who are learning a foreign language in immersion and bilingual programmes and all children in second language programmes. Young language learners may be foreign language learners, learning a language in a situation where the language is seldom heard outside the classroom.

Other young learners may be second language learners. Second lan- guage learners are usually members of a minority language group in a country where the majority of their peers have spoken the language from birth. Second language learners do not need to speak both languages fully to be bilingual, especially in a second language situation. These learners learn the majority language as their second language. For example, they may be learning Japanese as a second language in Japan, where large numbers of Japanese have returned in recent years with their non-Japanese-speaking children; or Cantonese as second language learners in Hong Kong where numbers of Mandarin-speaking children have been granted residency.

They may have been born in the country and have spoken only their home language before school or they may have immigrated because of family decisions to migrate or because of traumatic events in their home country. For young second language learners, the language they are learning is usually the main language of communication in their class- room, school and community. They are spending every moment of the week engaged in learning the language and at the same time learning through the language; for these students the language is a vital and per- vasive foundation to their life at school.

Young language learners around the world share many common char- acteristics and they learn in programmes that share many common beliefs and practices concerning the environment that young learners need in order to learn. Language programmes for young learners vary in their purposes and intended outcomes, their duration and their intensity.

Foreign language programmes A range of different programme types exist around the world for young language learners. Such language programmes for young learners often have a very small number of contact hours per week, perhaps only 20 minutes per week. However, regular scheduled foreign language classes are the most common type of foreign language pro- gramme in elementary schools.

The contact hours for scheduled lan- guage classes for young learners are generally longer than introductory programmes, up to two hours per week or more. These classes are often taught by a foreign language teacher who moves from class to class, taking over the class from the classroom teacher for the lesson period.

Partial immersion and total immersion programmes are examples of foreign language programmes that are designed to ensure greater lan- guage learning gains.

In partial immersion programmes, children study their curriculum subjects through the target language for part of a day or week and in total immersion programmes they learn through the target language for every day of the week and every week of the year. Immersion programmes are sometimes called bilingual programmes. The learning outcomes expected in foreign language programmes for young learners depend on a number of factors, including the starting age, the amount of contact time and other factors, such as the appropri- ateness of the curriculum, the language proficiency and teaching skills of the teacher proficiency is a general term denoting the degree of skill with which a person can use a language , and whether there are wider opportunities for the language to be encountered e.

Generally, regular scheduled programmes for young learners focus on listening and speaking, especially in the first two years. Reading and simple writing may be introduced gradually, depending on the age of the children and whether the programme is an immersion programme. Children learning in immersion and bilingual programmes have opportunities to advance quickly and in more depth in their language ability because they have additional time to use the language, and expectations of what they are expected to do in the language are high.

Many second language learners go directly into the mainstream classroom, that is, the regular classroom where they begin immediately to study the established curriculum alongside their majority language-speaking peers. Mainstream teachers possess varying degrees of knowledge about the language needs of second language learners.

Some fortunate second language learners are given additional language and learning support by specialist teachers; for example ESL specialists in many English-speaking countries work with the mainstream teachers in various ways to provide language-based support to help ESL learners access the mainstream curriculum. Bilingual programmes for second language learners are those programmes that teach children in their first language or in both the first and the second language.

The philosophy behind bilingual programmes is that children need to gain access to learning through their first language, often their stronger language, until they have developed the cognitive maturity and language ability that enables them to transfer this knowledge to the second language Cummins, Second language learners are surrounded by the target language in their work and play at school and therefore have many more opportunities than foreign language learners to learn the language.

But second language learners are expected to and need to make huge lan- guage learning gains almost immediately in the target language; they need the language to make friends and survive socially at school and they need the language to study the curriculum. Indeed they are often unre- alistically expected to use language in the classroom as efficiently as their majority language-speaking peers who have been learning the language since birth. This brief overview of language programmes for young learners illus- trates that programmes differ in their purpose, their context, in the nature of their learners and the expectations of foreign and second language learning.

In this book, teachers are foreign language teachers, classroom teachers and second language specialists who need to assess to inform their teaching decisions, to report on progress to others as required by their Education Department and to monitor growth over time. The differences amongst the languages, the programmes, learner characteristic and assessment or testing purposes are very real; these differences can be addressed through a common, principled, framework approach to assessment.

This book describes a framework-driven approach to assessment for young learn- ers. Every assessment decision is different; therefore teachers and asses- sors play a central role interpreting assessment principles and frameworks, basing their decisions on their knowledge of the particular programme and the particular characteristics of the learners to be assessed. Yet there are also many characteristics that young language learners share. The special characteristics of young language learners Children bring to their language learning their own personalities, likes and dislikes and interests, their own individual cognitive styles and capa- bilities and their own strengths and weaknesses.

Multiple intelligence theory Gardner, has suggested that children vary individually across eight types of intelligence — linguistic, musical, logical- mathematical, spatial, bodily kinesthetics, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic.

Furthermore, because of differences in their socioeco- nomic, cultural and home background, children bring with them an experience and knowledge of the world that is individual.

Thus, with regard to individuality, children are no different from older learners. Their individuality is, however, linked to the special characteristics that are discussed below. These characteristics of children set them apart from older learners. These characteristics fall into three general cate- gories: growth, literacy and vulnerability.

Since understanding of these differences is central to effective assessment, I will describe these in some detail. The descriptions are indicative only, since children develop at varying and individual rates and in ways influenced by background experiences. However, children are in a state of constant cognitive, social, emotional and physical growth.

They have a limited but growing experience of the world. The following descriptions of the cognitive, social and emotional and physical characteristics of young learners are a general representation only; it is not possible to describe exactly the characteristic or the approximate age at which it occurs. Cognitive growth characteristics present clear differences between young learners and adults. The attention span of young learners in the early years of schooling is short, as little as 10 to 15 minutes; they are easily diverted and distracted by other pupils.

They may drop out of a task when they find it difficult, though they are often willing to try a task in order to please the teacher.

As children progress from 5 years old to 12 years old, they are developing abilities to think in new ways and are moving towards being able to reason in a systematic and logical fashion in adolescence.

Children are novices as they learn, with help from others, to become more expert in solving problems, in reading and in many more activities.

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